Alexis Rudakewych, the Government Relations Manager at SOCMA has an interesting guest-blog post over at ChemicalProcessing.com that addresses the problems with the CFATS implementation that were made public a couple weeks back in a FoxNews.com article. In the posting she makes the very predictable (and in very many ways legitimate) argument that the current issues provide further argument for providing the CFATS program with a long term extension of the current authorization without substantial modification. Her arguments are well reasoned and certainly worth reading.
She makes one comment though, that I must take exception to. She states that:
“This news could easily derail the advancement of any of the three pending CFATS bills in the House and Senate, all of which have already been approved by their respective committees, and instead redirect Congress's attention to oversight hearings on the program in lieu of a multi-year authorization.”
While the CFATS program is small potatoes in the great scheme of the federal government (so small that it isn’t even a line item in the budget) it is an important part of defending the United States against potentially serious terrorist attacks. It is arguably the single most important program defending against the terrorist use of WMD against the homeland.
We now have a situation that has developed over the last couple of years where the implementation of that program has virtually stalled because of apparent management issues. I say apparent because it appears that no one, including Alexis, has seen a copy of this internal DHS report. For Congress to continue funding this program without a serious and public look at these management issues (and the Department’s plan for resolving them) would be political malfeasance of the highest order.
Industry has spent a great deal of time, money and other resources preparing for the site security plan approval process. They are almost certainly going to have to spend even more before the process is complete. I would think that industry would want more than just the unsupported assurances of the NPPD management, the same management that apparently failed miserably in its oversight of the program in the first place, that the problems were being fixed.
If industry really wants to have long-term authorization of this program pass, they should be demanding an immediate hearing (maybe even a joint hearing) on this issue in the very near future along with a public reporting of the internal investigation. Hearings should go beyond the routine appearance of Undersecretary Bears and Director Anderson. It should include the full management team of ISCD, union reps (as the unions were apparently blamed for being part of the problems) and at least one regional commander of the chemical facility inspectors. It might not be a bad idea to also include some of the original management of ISCD to see if the current problems actually had their roots in the initial design of the program.
CFATS is too valuable a program to let it die from lack of attention. If something isn’t done soon to correct these problems industry is going to reduce its support for the CFATS program. Money budgeted for security spending will be cut back so that it can be applied to money making efforts that improve their bottom lines.
I have long maintained that the failure of both sides to come to a reasonable compromise on the IST issue has doomed this program to a year-by-year reauthorization standard. This problem is going to make it more difficult to get the necessary support necessary for the long-term reauthorization process to be completed. Failing to publicly deal with the problem will make it impossible.